Archive for November, 2012

Spare a Rupee For An Old Ex-Leper?

The busy market stalls around Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus. Lunchtime. In search of some bargain bric-a-brac on my way to the station. It is a smorgasbord of the obscure.
Screwdriver selections, alarm clocks, Abibas clothing, Goochi purses, scrubbing brushes, rings, bangles, fake Chelsea shirts, mobile phone chargers, headphone sets, pants, sandals. So much tat. So little time.
I settle for a miniature wind up plastic elephant….

Henry: How much? Quick!
Stall Holder: What?
Henry: It’s for my nephew….
Stall Holder: Oh. Fifty Rupees.
Henry: Right.
Stall Holder: What?
Henry: (putting the money down) There you are…
Stall Holder: Wait a moment.
Henry: What?
Stall Holder: We’re supposed to haggle.
Henry: No, no — I’ve got to get to the ticket office…
Stall Holder: What do you mean, ‘no’?
Henry: I haven’t time — I’ve got to get…
Stall Holder: Give it back then.
Henry: No, no — I paid you.
Stall Holder: (calls) Bert!

Bert, a massive man, appears.

Bert: Yeah?
Stall Holder: This bloke won’t haggle.
Bert: (looks around) Wont haggle?
Henry: Oh all right — I mean, do we have to…
Stall Holder: Now I want fifty for that…
Henry: I gave you fifty!
Stall Holder: Now are you telling me that’s not worth fifty?
Henry: No.
Stall Holder: Feel the quality, that’s genuine local sweat shop right there…
Henry: Oh — I’ll give you forty five , then…
Stall Holder: No, no. Do it properly.
Henry: What?
Stall Holder: Haggle properly. This isn’t worth forty five.
Henry: You just said it was worth fifty!
Stall Holder: Bert!
Henry: I’ll give you thirty.
Stall Holder: That’s more like it (angrily). Thirty?Are you trying to insult me? Me? With a poor dying grandmother…? Thirty?!
Henry: Thirty two.
Stall Holder: Now you’re getting it. Thirty two? Did I hear you right? Thirty two?? This cost me thirty four— d’you want to ruin me?
Henry: Forty two?
Stall Holder: Forty Two?!
Henry: Forty five?
Stall Holder: No, no, no — you go to thirty seven now!
Henry: Thirty seven?
Stall Holder: Thirty Seven? Are you joking?
Henry: That’s what you told me to say! (desperate) Tell me what to say, please!
Stall Holder: Offer me forty one.
Henry: I’ll give you forty one.
Stall Holder: (to the onlookers) He’s offering me forty one for this!
Henry: Forty one?
Stall Holder: Forty one. My last word. I won’t take a rupee less, or strike me dead.
Henry: Forty!
Stall Holder: Done! (shaking Henry’s hand) Nice to do business with you. Tell you what, I’ll throw in this as well. (Gives Henry a pair of socks)
Henry: I don’t want them, but thanks.
Stall Holder: Bert!
Bert: (appearing rapidly) Yes?
Henry: All right! All right!! Thank you.
Stall Holder: Where’s the forty then?
Henry: I already gave you fifty.
Stall Holder: Oh yes … that’s ten I owe you then. (starts looking for change)
Henry: … It’s all right, it doesn’t matter.
Stall Holder: Hang on.

A pause while the Stall Holder tries to find change.

Henry: It’s all right, that’s ten for the socks — that’s fine!
Stall Holder: Ten for the Socks? !! Look at them, they’re worth twenty if they’re worth a rupee.
Henry: You just gave them to me for nothing!
Stall Holder: Yes, but they’re worth twenty.
Henry: All right, all right.
Stall Holder: No, no, no. They’re not worth twenty.
You’re supposed to argue. ‘What? Twenty for those? You must be mad!’

Exasperated, Henry pays twenty and walks off hurriedly with the socks

Stall Holder: Ah well, there’s one born every minute.

N.B. Reproduced and reworked with an earnest doff of the panama to Idle, Chapman and the others. Thank you.
Heroes all. You continue to inspire.

Communication Problems

Windsor. An evocative name to most Englishman. Our Gracious Queen. Davies. Babs. Knot. Soup.

Sadly my current digs simply do not do the name justice. One example at breakfast mixes hotels California and Fawlty Towers.
Taking my place at breakfast next to Tim, a monosyllabic Swede on a spiritual journey, and Sailesh, an Indo-Finnish physician, and careful not to place my elbow in the left overs from the previous diner’s visit, I take a moment to get my bearings. I order breakfast.

Sailesh isn’t short of a word or too. Tim is. I’m treated to the former’s views on everything from Sai Bibi to Angry Birds, Steve Jobs to Swedish women, gurus, ice hockey, Finland, Finland, Finland. The nutty professor is in his element and none more so than in his intermittent admonishment of our waiter.
Yes, he is a complete moron. But there’s no need to remonstrate quite so pointedly and dramatically.
Then Kevin, a Londoner, and a veteran of more than one of such morning matinees, informs me he is the worst waiter in the world.

Paratha? No, omelette. Chai? Yes, where is it?

Minutes later. More talking. I scan the room and the punters. Remembering, I tiptoed through these very facilities about eight hours ago to the fridge for a bottle of water and in the process woke up a dozen or so kitchen staff scattered around the dining room floor…..

Coffee? No chai. Please. Omelette? Yes, where is it?

The chef’s dog makes a nuisance of itself in the passageway between dining room and kitchen….

The omelette eventually arrives. Chai? Yes, where is it?

The fixtures and fittings of the dining room are, in keeping with the rest of this squalid place, awful. Shit beige and shit shit coloured walls, the chairs are the the same colour. The tables are the like the ones you keep meaning to take down the tip but always find a reason not too.

Coffee? No, chai. Oh for, fu….

I’ve got coffee.

Meanwhile, seemingly having exhausted his repertoire of soliloquies, Sailesh has left the waiter alone and turned his interrogation on Tim. “So you have family?” “Yes, a brother.” “You must fight a bit, yes?” “It is hard to do when he is disabled.”


Time to shampoo the cat. Or stick pins in my eyes. Or see if they can rename the hotel something more appropriate.

Like Bon Jovi. Or Ronaldo. Or Balls.


Derderderderderderderderderder, derderderderderderderderderderderder, der, der, derderderderderderderderderderderder, derderderderderderderderderderderder, der,der, derderderderderderderderderderderder, derrrrrrr, derderderderderderderderderderderder, derderderderderderderderderderderder….*

Readers. Technical hitch.

Buggered if I know what’s going on. Normal service will resume soon, hopefully.

Something to do with WiFi and 3G and synching or something. I’ll do some digging on WordPress, see what I can find out.

Technology? Honestly.

*With acknowledgements to Albarn, Coxon, James and that Labour MP wannabee. Really? Get over it mate.

In The Navi

What time does it start? What time can you make it? So goes the joke every Luton fan has to endure at some point in their supporting life.
My return to Navi Mumbai and the Dr D Y Patil Stadium and it felt a bit like living the off told gag for myself.

I half expected commemorative plaques screwed to the backsaw of the seats where Tesco Nige (Hello mate!) and I witnessed IPL 3’s epic conclusion back in May 2010. The memories came flooding back. Tangibly what hit me, as I watched the England Performance Programme XI take on the D Y Patil Academy XI, was, just where the bloody hell was everybody?

Then. Fireworks, Mexican Waves, that funny parping noise that originated at the Rugby World Cup in 2007 that stadium announcers use to gee up the punters. There was A.R. Rahman, S.R. Khan, dancing girls, a packed crowd replete with bouncing, screaming Sachin crazy locals and not as many soon-to-be-smug supporters who -wisely as it turned out- made the journey from Chennai. There was Dougie Bollinger at the peak of his powers. There was another chapter unfolding in the memorable career of M.S. Dhoni. It was all going off.

Now. Me. And an empty bowl of a stadium with rows and rows of empty blue seats, white seats, all finished off with an unloved and suffocating dusting of, err, dust. England’s fringe players were doing their best to nudge the selectors with the next Test just a week away as the game, but considerably weaker, opposition went forlornly about their business. And due to all that earlier mucking about on the trains, no sooner had I got there than the players walked off for lunch.

The interval was signalled by an ear splitting blast of that God awful noise that signals an appearance from Angelos Epithemiou on Shooting Stars. And then another burst of a similarly moronic accompaniment. It would’ve woken the dead. If they’d have bothered to turn up.
Taking this as my cue, I went for a wander of the impressive facilities the good doctor has provided to the local area. As well as an under-used stadium with practice fields, swimming pool and gymnasium, there is a hospital and a medical college not to mention something for the keen naturalist as well. “Snake, snake!”, shouted one of the local maintenance staff. I stood immediately to attention as this huge reptile slithered down a drain.
Feeling in need of sustenance, I repaired to a local vendor and picked up two bananas, a bottle of water and two packets of Parle cashew and butter cookies to help coax some sanity back into my life. Returning to my seat to catch the closing refrains of Skat Man John, my choice of brunch hadn’t seemed to have done the trick.

The teams returned and England’s middle order set about their counterparts with untroubled abandon. Their fourth wicket put on a quick hundred runs with the ease of a Pringle sweater clad Michael Parkinson interviewing Sting, Paul McCartney and Jamie Cullum from his armchair in front of a gently smouldering fire while supping a dram of Glenmorangie.

After nearly two hours and with little chance of anything approaching a contest happening soon, I gave up and left. As the score climbed steadily, I bet the Academy XI bowlers wished they could have done the same.

Post Script. As the continuing nonsense between the BCCI (yes, them again) and the independent photo agencies shows no signs of abating, and because Jocelyn Galsworthy definitely wasn’t there (I checked), if anyone’s interested, here’s a picture from today’s action.


Jocelyn Galsworthy? Jocelyn Angloma more like…..

Out Of My Brain On The Train (Part 1)

Panvel, the usually more than reliable gentleman at the hotel reception informed me when I asked the nearest station to the Navi Mumbai Stadium.

Not even close.

It took the intervention of some laughing students at the tuk-tuk pick up that to put me on the right track, literally (I am really just Alan Partridge, aren’t I?) towards the aforementioned station.

No, Nerul, was in fact my destination.

So my going up and down the wrong line, the train in vain, had shaved hours off my day’s activity. What it had done however, was give me a unique insight into the daily trials and travails of your average Greater Mumbai commuter.

To call the carriages of a Mumbai West Coast train a meat wagon isn’t too exaggerated. Eerily reminiscent of the days as a kid when on summer Sunday mornings I used to help my farmer uncles with loading their cattle on to the truck.
Steel base. Steel grids. Steel roofs, where handles, shiny like butchers’ hooks, dangle rigidly to the salvation of those below. The seats, a welcome respite for the lucky few, in crimson wood. The paint job, newly sprayed and sparing, in dull aqua blue, conceals the old colour. That crimson again, appearing to be running from the ceiling, like, well, you know what.

Then come the crowds. After a relatively calm embarkation at Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus through Sandhurst, Dockyard and Reay Roads, a seat and a further revel in the Times of India’s post mortem of their team’s horror show in the last Test, before the carriage begins to fill up.
Eager not to miss my stop (hmmm), I opt to stand up and filter towards the permanently opened doors.
The Kurla- Sanpada leg of the journey proves to be the most eye-opening. The carriage is full to bursting as Mumbaikars start their working day by jostling, shoving, pulling and grabbing their way into position. No quarter given. A feral, half mosh-pit, half cock-fight of a frenzy ensues.
My pristine white (hmmm again) shirt will resemble a Darlington home shirt by the end of the trip, my back glued to the grid and its sticky, sweaty rails. My right wrist is locked into a grip on my bottle of Bisleri and newspaper, my feet as immovable as the Indian middle order in the eye of a Monty storm. It’s a bit close.

And just as suddenly as it started, this Mumbai melee disperses into something approaching tranquil. Workers disappear to their workplaces to be replaced with the many morning views of Maharashtra. My journey goes left, right and eventually, thanks to the lads mentioned earlier, but hours later, I arrive at my stop.

I’ll never, ever complain about First Capital Connect again, promise. Or any of the other London/ South East based networks. Thanks for the ride though Mumbai, it was emotional.

A Different Kind of Fix

One Week On, Another DWC Bombay Bicycle Club Special:


Just as I was about to set off for a sundowner, the rest of the Bread Lane Crew insisted I take pictures of them too….




I think, collectively, they were all thinking ‘silly Gora’ and their laugher seemed to back this up. I think they’re probably right.

Viewing Record For England Matches (Away) Stands At: Seen 5, Drawn 2, Lost 2, Won 1

Good Lord. What a win, what a performance.

While England produced a sensational comeback from their nightmare in Ahmedabad, India put the “wank” into Wankhede.
It’s moments like these that I really can’t understand fans of multi-garlanded football teams who expect success on a plate.

Travel to the far ends of the earth. Experience matches that are called off and impromptu tours of Betty’s Hope scheduled in their place. Experience chemical toilets that if existed in the UK you’d get years of therapy from having visited. Experience Lion Strong, warm. Experience defeats snatched from the jaws of victory or safety. Have the hope that kills you, kill you.

Take all this like a man. Compartmentalise. Then savour such a victory when it’s delivered with such gusto.

Thank you Cooky, KP, Monty, Swanny. Thank you Clarky, Gareth, One Golden Eagle, Chairman Mao, German Postman, Frank & Bruna, Andy & Jo. Thank you Lucky Paul and your daily pre-match Lucky Handshake.

Finally, an England win away. Huzzah!!!!!!

Onwards to Kolkata.

Exclusive DWC Action: The One Hand, One Bounce Championships. Live From Mumbai.

The Second Airtel Test Match at the Wankhede Stadium isn’t the only cricket of colossal importance to be taking place in this cricket crazy city right now. Journeying to and from the stadium, past the sprawling Maidans with every square inch populated by some Test/ ODI / T20 or other taking place, every cliche you’ve ever read about cricket being the other religion in India seems to ring true.

Outside my window last evening on the Adi Marzban Marg, the local leg of the the municipal One Hand, One Bounce Championship was taking place. Featuring a dozen or so local blokes, bowling was under arm from a drain cover ten yards from the stumps (in this case a battered bar stool). Big shots over midwicket towards the Sam Ruston & Co Garage were banned. Heaving blows over extra cover towards the relatively gleaming fleet of Marutis were similarly outlawed. Running was not allowed.
You batted time. The man that withstood trial by turning tennis ball off the erratically paved street, multiple short legs and determined self discipline the longest was reckoned the winner.

The location of the Marg, within a KP six hit of the old financial district, meant play took place once a week, when the bustle was replaced with a something approaching quiet in Mumbai. Yesterday, play was suspended a handful of times for pedestrians or the odd Ambassador doing its rounds. Then it was straight back into the action beneath the Dome Palms and Padouk trees and the jutting Gothic offices.

On my way back from the ground, a few feet from my hotel I was summoned over to take guard, something of an honour I felt. The rules were explained to me through trial and error and before long I was stoically displaying the full range of my smothering forward defence technique to the street’s bored residents. Sensing their ennui, I decided to get on with it and was bowled through the gate. Celebration, or more likely, relief abounded and after the obligatory handshakes I went to field at short midwicket next to one of Mr Ruston’s Hondas where I mulled silently among the excitable yelps of “catchit, catchit” and “shot, shot.”

The BCCI are a horrible, horrible organisation. Their Gauleiters on match days, the local police force, are them personified with their over bearing officiousness and maniacal jumped up sense of self worth. Lalit Modi is still trying to do his best to own the sport too. The ICC are meant to be the sport’s chiefs, yet appear passengers to the whim of the BCCI taxi drivers.
Cricket, despite International Test Day yesterday, where four, yes four glorious Test Matches were taking place around the world, is not in a good place at the moment and seems, owing to the presence of money, TV scheduling and odious governing bodies, lemming-like to be following football over the cliff.
Thank goodness then for the sanity and unalloyed joy of Maidan and Marg cricket that proves their is still a soul to our wonderful game.

Hair Apparent

When we talk about staying power, what usually comes to mind?

The dying embers of Tony Blair’s premiership? The last Grand National winner (Neptune Collonges, wasn’t it Paul?)? Kyle Minogue or Madonna (God forbid, even Cher?) Anyone who’s ever attended a Ken Dodd show? Rommel in the desert? The Mouse Trap? Nicholas Parsons on Just A Minute? Bryan Adams in the summer of ’91?

Now consider this. During the course of today’s play, and it needs saying, what a day’s play, I got chatting to a bloke who shared a sauna with Aleem Dar last night.

Immovable. Despite the ravages of steam, sweat and pulverising heat, Umpire Dar’s hair refused to move. My chum couldn’t believe his eyes. Not just the outstanding physical specimen sat alongside him but the hair, that hair. Completely and utterly immovable.

Do they give awards for this sort of thing? If not they jolly well should. Immovable. Outstanding.

I Like Chinese

Went drinking last night at the close of play. Fell in with a bunch of lads in some cafe near the ground. Four London Pilseners* in and one of the chaps and I are comparing travelling stories. He’d come to India indirectly via China (Hello China!). In China he bought a watch.

Frankly, it’s one of the greatest things I’ve ever seen.

It cost about a fiver, and it doesn’t work. No matter, it’s still one of the greatest things I’ve ever seen.

The watch face features a uniformed Chairman Mao smiling broadly with his arm outstretched.
For every second that passes, his arm goes up and down.

Up and down.

Up and down.

While Chairman Mao smiles on serenely.

Up and down.

Up and down.

I will get a picture of it. As fail-safe as the Morecambe & Wise breakfast sketch to raise a smile. On the way back from the ground today I eschewed the cafes and bars on account of my dicky belly.
I didn’t need the Chairman Mao watch to lift the spirits, England’s performance today had done that already.
Well played chaps, more of the same tomorrow please….

*The Mumbai equivalent of Sri Lanka’s Lion beer. Horrid stuff. There’s an even more corrosive option on offer here too, Golden Eagle.

You just wouldn’t.